Once more in 2021, a whole host of concerns, pressures and even unexpected opportunities have contributed to an unfamiliar, unpredictable and uncomfortable sporting landscape, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less exciting, as unpredictability is in its DNA.
From one of English cricket’s greatest embarrassments, to Baroness Louise Casey’s review into the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England – during which ticketless fans stormed the national stadium on a ‘national day of shame’ – and the 48-hour-rise-and-humiliating crash of the European Super League plan, which threatened to change the face of football, 2021 could be best described as a tumultuous turn of events.
Although football’s silent majority won out, eventually finding its voice, the heart-warming backlash provided a timely reminder as to why we fell in love with sport, and that intrinsic feelings of glory and despair that separates winners from losers cannot be easily bought.
The terrible effects of Covid notwithstanding, from the uninhibited way tennis’ newest starlet strode into the spotlight as summer drew to a close to Formula One’s battle of the ages, which went down to the final lap of the final race, we, the devoted sports fans, were privy to many memorable moments and devoured each one of them that came our way.
Is Joe The Root Of The Problem?
At the time of writing coach Chris Silverwood was still taking the positives after England relinquished the Ashes in two days’ less match action than their fortnight-long, pre-series quarantine.
Despite the side never truly standing a chance, the series got its usual bell-and-whistles, tub-thumping build-up, but in reality even the faintest flicker was keenly doused.
Spare a thought for Test captain Joe Root, who finished the calendar year with the third most Test runs in history – 1,708 at an average of 61.00 – or a staggering 27.98% of England’s Test runs in 2021! The jury remains out on Root the captain but certainly not the batsman, with Betfair now offering odds of 1/3 for the Yorkshireman to be replaced as Test captain. Even former England batsman and long-time Root advocate Sir Geoffrey Boycott is calling for his head.
Radacanu’s Fairytale Of New York
We all marvelled at the exuberant rise of Emma Radacanu during the tail end of the summer, with British tennis riding the crest of a wave following her US Open fairytale.
Teenager Raducanu shot to overnight fame by becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam, winning 10 matches without dropping a set en route to lifting the trophy at the age of just 18, having shown some of her potential at Wimbledon.
Radacanu was a 499-1 outsider, having just completed her A-Levels weeks prior, but is 17-10 with Paddy Power to win one of the four tennis majors in 2022, 15/2 to triumph at Wimbledon, and 200/1 to win all four majors (both Betfair).
Estimates have around 100,000 Brits picking up a tennis racket since watching!
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Toasting A World Cup Triumph With A Mulled Wine And Advent Chocolate?
Another breakthrough wasn’t to be, as Gareth Southgate expertly steered England to a final against Italy for the first time since 1966, almost entirely on home soil, but three successive missed penalties late on 11 July quickly crushed what optimism had been garnered in the months prior. And while Harry Kane and co didn’t hoist the Henri Delaunay Cup aloft, they did re-establish their connection with the nation.
In just under 12 months time we’ll all be sitting in our woolie jumpers, drinking hot chocolate, frantically snapping up all those last minute Christmas presenters, and warming ourselves by a log fire, all while Southgate’s squad, currently 8/1 with Unibet, battle the searing Qatari heat to win the most contentious World Cup in history. The biggest of years for the smallest nation to ever host the World Cup.
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Chelsea’s treble-winning manager Emma Hayes is at the heart of English football after a superb 2021 – from mentoring the WSL’s female coaches to her punditry during men’s Euros.
Hayes, who is the arrowhead of the women’s game right now, has won back-to-back league titles with Chelsea and also became the first woman manager to reach the Champions League final last season.
Domestically, Manchester City look as though they will secure a second consecutive Premier League crown for the second time under the world renowned Pep Guardiola – at a canter! Domination would be the only word to describe the collecting of 110 points and scoring of 113 goals in 2021.
Lapping Up F1 Controversy
Even for the passing F1 fan, it was hard to avoid knowing how the 2021 season ended. That’s not to say they understand, though. Put simply, FIA’s astounding decision in Abu Dhabi effectively set up a one-lap race between the two drivers tied for first place in the last clash of the season. Max Verstappen, on fresher tyres, was able to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton and win the Championship.
Very quickly, Hamilton, ‘wavering in emotions’ according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, and considering retirement – if you listen to others – has been slated as 1/1 (Evens) favourite at bet365 to regain his world title, after being cruelly denied an eighth world championship, and 5/1 to be Sports Personality of the Year in 2022 at Betfair.
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Betfair has Hamilton, who turns 37 in January, down as a 10-1 chance of retiring from motosport.
It would be remiss not to mention Tokyo, which, quite literally managed to make the impossible possible – through hosting the biggest sporting event on the planet, during a global pandemic.
Team GB finished fourth in the medal table with 22 Gold, 21 Silver and 21 Bronze medals, but perhaps the most lasting of memories will be reserved for Tom Daley and his synchro partner Matty Lee, who produced the performance of their lives to win gold, and finally become Olympic champions. The Paralympics touched equal heights.
The King Returns With Golf Set For An Almighty Tug Of War
Phil Mickleson, one of 17 players in the history of golf to win three of the four majors, became the oldest winner of a golf major in history at the age of 50 years, 11 months and seven days old, while it was heartening to see Tiger Woods return to tournament golf, on his terms.
The 46-year-old remains the centre of the golfing universe, so when he nailed his colours to the PGA mast recently, amid talk of breakaway tours and new leagues, the rest will no doubt have taken notice.
Team Europe fell to a 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits in September’s Ryder Cup, the biggest in their history.
Europe are expected to name a successor to Padraig Harrington as captain in early 2022, ahead of the 2023 contest in Italy. Both Henrik Stenson and Luke Donald are said to be in consideration.
Bookmaker Paddy Power has Team USA down as 1-2 favourites to win the 44th Ryder Cup at Guidonia Montecelio near Rome, with Europe a 2-1 shot.
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Boxing’s heavyweight division is arguably in the best place that it has been in since the Mike Tyson-era with all of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Oleksandr Usyk, Andy Ruiz Jr, Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker contesting multiple times.
And that’s not to forget the man in the box seat – champion Tyson Fury, who on one hand could be on the verge of fighting AJ (2-1), but is also shorter odds (6-4) to hang up the gloves following on from his huge win against Wilder.
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Rugby League’s two southern hemisphere powerhouses, Australia and New Zealand, pressured embattled officials to postpone the event by 12 months, while one of the sport’s legends, Kevin Sinfield, ran 101 miles in 24 hours to raise £2 million for the Rob Burrow Centre for MND. A truly remarkable feat, which embodies the mateship between Leeds’ vaunted golden generation.
2021 has been messy, frustrating, heart breaking and everything in between, but even in uncertain times, sport has still managed to deliver some outstanding entertainment – and here at Freebets.com we’ll continue to bring you the latest news, tips and insights, and we can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store!